Silver Haze For The Golden Years: 3 Reasons Senior Health and Wellness Can Benefit From Medical Cannabis
Nowadays, seniors have more options than ever to promote health and wellness. And with the increased availability of medical cannabis programs, and growing evidence of its efficacy, many older people are using it—as well as CBD (an extract from the cannabis plant)—to help with diverse range of conditions. Very many. A recent study published in Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine noted the greatest increase in users of cannabis has been seen in those older than 65.  From 2006 to 2013, there was a 71.1% increase in use in those over 50, and approximately 30% of all medical cannabis users were within that age bracket. Increasingly, seniors are finding cannabis or CBD to be a worthwhile adjunct to their health and wellness routines.
Given this surge, and as medical marijuana programs and the availability of CBD continue to spread, it’s important to look at what these health and wellness benefits actually are. Alongside traditional medicine, alternative medicine, and other wellness modalities such as massage and bodywork, research shows there’s a lot be said for cannabis’s benefits for seniors. There are many, but here are three big ones:
Pain Management: More than other demographics, seniors face pain problems due to everything from arthritis or osteoporosis to neuropathic pain (pain due to nerve damage that can result from conditions like multiple sclerosis or after chemotherapy). Research is showing that cannabis use can help attenuate this pain; in fact, one study found a robust 49% of seniors found at least some pain relief from use, with 33% reducing opioid medication use.  Given the adverse side-effects of opioids for chronic pain, many seniors are finding cannabis to be a better option.
Reduction in Pharmaceutical Use: Many seniors take a great deal of pharmaceutical drugs for symptom management, with some on as many as five or more different pills simultaneously. This can lead to unfortunate interactions between the drugs and adverse side-effects. Encouragingly, however, senior cannabis users have been found to reduce reliance on some of these medications. While cannabis does have some side-effects of its own—including drowsiness and balance issues—a major retrospective study found that this is well-tolerated and safe.  Proper adjustment of dosages, it noted, significantly reduced such issues.
Taking on Insomnia: Insomnia, an inability to get proper sleep, is particularly prevalent among older adults, with as many as 48% of this population complaining of a problem.  Here, too, cannabis and/or CBD use has been found to be quite helpful. An initial report found that 18% of older insomnia patients found cannabis use—usually a combination of equal parts THC (the psychoactive component of the plant) and CBD—to be helpful.  Does cannabis medicine represent a gold standard for the golden years? The research is ongoing, but there is a great deal of promise, and we’ve already learned a great deal about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis for seniors. It’s important to be careful about dosages—there are a lot of different types and extracts out there—so seniors could benefit from talking to a professional. That said, it’s no wonder that older adults are the quickest adopters of this kind of medicine.
Lloyd S, Striley C. Marijuana Use Among Adults 50 Years or Older in the 21st Century. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. 2018;4:233372141878166. doi:10.1177/2333721418781668
George J. Medical Marijuana and Older Adults. Medpagetoday.com. https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/aan/78289. Published 2019. Accessed January 17, 2020.
Patel D, Steinberg J, Patel P. Insomnia in the Elderly: A Review. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2018;14(06):1017-1024. doi:10.5664/jcsm.7172
Cannabis, CBD, wellness, seniors, alternative medicine, and massage.